Today is Tell a Fairy Tale Day. I thought it might be a great excuse to check in on Princess Vialait in Fereylind. Princess of Fereylind was inspired by a half-buried dead-end sign I found while out walking.
Dance Among the Foxglove
Vialait couldn’t wait for her parents’ impending wedding. It was only days away, and the entirety of Fereylind was preparing for it. Everyone except Grandmother, anyways.
She made a face and spat a curse. Grandmother didn’t like Mommy or Vialait. Daddy had threatened to exile her if she did anything to upset their happy lives. That included doing anything to ruin the wedding.
She turned her thoughts back to the oh-so-important task at hand. She was planning a trip to the human realm. She needed to retrieve some foxglove to protect her parents’ wedding from her evil grandmother.
Vialait had spent hours in the library pouring over tomes looking for ways to protect the wedding from anything that nasty fairy might do. She’d discovered that if she extracted the juice from the foxglove, it could be used to protect the wedding. If she grabbed some extra, she could string them up for decorations.
Knowing what she needed to prevent her grandmother, or any other ill-intending creature, from crashing the wedding, she’d asked around about where to find the beautiful flowers. Time and again, she’d heard the same answer.
“You have to go to the human realm. You’ll find some growing wild at the back of the blue and white house at the edge of the wood.” her new best friend, Fernia, had whispered. “But, don’t get caught by the human there. She’s a mean old witch, and she’ll have you for breakfast.”
“You could come with me,” she’d whispered back.
“Nuh-uh. Momma and Poppa would pin my wings to the wall if I went to the human realm.”
Fernia sat across from her on her bed. Between them was a hand-drawn map they’d bought from a wandering merchant. The merchant had worn a heavy cloak with a dark hood. His face had been barely visible from beneath it.
“This is where the folding over will happen. I remember it from the time Momma and Poppa took me to see the light bugs do their springtime dance across the fields.” She pointed to a spot on the map. “And Crimbiny, who can be believed most of the time, said that you turn towards the woods. He says the path is trodden but hidden because that’s the way the old witch likes it.” She pointed to another spot on the map. “It should be here.”
“Girls?” Vialait’s mother called from outside the door. “Are you in here?”
“It’s Mommy! Quick, hide everything!”
The girls stuffed everything behind the mound of pillows leaning against the headboard. They were just fluffing the pillows back into place when her mother opened the door.
“Oh good, you are in here.” She eyed them suspiciously. “Dinner will be ready soon. You should wash up and set the table.”
They bounded from the bed and slipped past her through the doorway, trying their hardest to act nonchalant.
“What are you two up to?” her mother asked as she followed them down the hall.
“Mommy, you’re gonna spoil your wedding present.”
Her stomach was knotted with nerves, and she barely touched her dinner. She wished it were bedtime already so that she could sneak away. The sooner she got the foxglove, the sooner she could finish her parents’ wedding gift.
“Aren’t you girls hungry?” her father asked.
Vialait looked over at Fernia’s plate and saw that she’d barely eaten anything either.
“You two snuck a snack earlier, didn’t you?” her mother suggested.
They both hung their heads, feigning guilt for the sake of escape.
“You thought you could sneak one past your old mom, did you?” her father teased.
Vialait mumbled something that could have been an apology. She and Fernia bolted from the table as soon as they were dismissed. They didn’t stop running until they were in her room and had closed the door.
Vialait leaned against it. When her eyes met Fernia’s, they both burst into laughter. They were going to be hungry later because they hadn’t snuck anything, but they would.
Soon, their laughter eased into giggles and then subsided altogether. After they’d regained control of their faculties, they hustled to work. They packed a knapsack with items they thought she might need to procure the foxglove. They included a small spade, a handful of cloths to wrap the plants in, and the map.
Fernia hung the knapsack on a protruding nail outside of Vialait’s bedroom window. Vialait’s wings had grown in weak and damaged from her prolonged time in the human world so far from the magic of Fereylind. As a result, she couldn’t fly. That’s why her parents had set her up on the third floor.
It felt like ages before her parents finally came and said goodnight and even longer before she heard their bedroom door close. She shook Fernia awake. They worked soundlessly in the dark room.
Vialait swung open her bedroom window. She reached out to retrieve the knapsack from the hook and might have fallen out if it hadn’t been for her friend’s quick flight and incredible strength.
“Hold on there,” she whispered, a tinkling of a giggle in her voice. “I’ll help you down in just a minute. No need to arrive head first.”
Vialait panted as she clung to her friend. Life had flashed before her eyes. She’d been to Death’s doorstep before and wasn’t ready to return so soon.
Fernia’s embrace eased her trembling heart. When she felt more steady, she let go and secured the knapsack over her shoulders. She nodded to her friend, who embraced her again. They flitted from the room and floated with ease to the ground below. Fernia squeezed Vialait tightly before releasing her.
“You be careful and hurry back. I’ll snore loud enough, your parents will think it has to be two of us in there.”
They embraced one last time and then Vialait was slipping through the Fereylind Wood on the way to the exit. She felt the hum of the vibrations before the shimmering edge of the Wood came into view.
Her black hair, now healthy, hung in long silken waves down her back. She gathered it into a quick ponytail and secured it with a vine she pulled from a nearby tree. She waved her hand like her father had done on the day he’d brought her home, and the Wood folded over on itself before righting again.
She was standing on the very spot where she’d first laid eyes on Fereylind. She turned to admire it as it folded and shimmered. She vowed to hurry as she walked along the shimmering edge searching for the trodden path.
The trodden path began where the human woods met the shimmering of Fereylind. Vialait followed it as it wound in and out of the woods. She was just beginning to wonder if she’d followed the wrong path when a blue house with white trim that looked like piping came into view.
As she came from the woods into the backyard, she beheld the most beautiful purple bells. They weren’t near the path, and she’d have to sneak past the house to get to them. She watched as they swayed beneath the moonlight. She swore she could hear them jingle.
She glanced towards the house as she left the trodden path on tip-toes. The cool grass tickled as it snaked between her toes. She giggled, and it rang through the still night like wind chimes.
She froze, certain the old witch would catch her and eat her for the fool she was. She listened but heard nothing. When she was sure that she hadn’t caught the attention of the witch inside, she resumed her lightfooted walk across the cool grass.
The jingle of the foxglove grew louder as she drew closer. Vialait wondered how the humans weren’t dancing to their beautiful melody. She struck out her arms and began twirling to their music. Soon she was humming as she danced through the wild blooms.
“What are you doing?” a male voice asked from the edge of the yard.
Startled, she jumped and squealed.
“I didn’t mean to frighten you,” he said stepping into a beam of moonlight.
He had a handsome face. It was creased with concern. He held his hands up in a sign of good will.
“I just wanted to know what you were doing spinning in circles among our foxglove.”
“You’ve never seen dancing before?” she asked, curious.
“Not without any music to do it by,” he admitted.
“You can’t hear it?” She cocked her head and looked at him curiously.
“The lovely music your foxglove plays for you?”
He looked at her like she was out of her mind. She held out her hand for him to join her.
“Why don’t you come inside? We can play some music, and you can dance beside the fire.”
“Then you shove me in and cook me up for your dinner, Witch?” Vialait accused.
“Witch you say? I’m no witch. I’m just a boy who wandered out of the woods, same as you.”
“And the witch just lets you live. She eats up all the others who come around her way, but for some reason the old woman spares you?”
He laughed. It was a loud and bellowing laugh. She found it beautiful.
“My name is Hans. I live here with my sister, Greta. The old woman is no longer here to eat children. Come, warm yourself inside by our fire.”
“And the witch just gave you her house?” She looked at him skeptically.
“More like we took it after my sister cooked her in her own fire.”
“Then you should dance with me here in the music of the foxglove.”
Vialait began to dance again. She held out a hand to Hans beckoning him to join her. When he took her hand and joined in her merriment, she laughed melodically.
He twirled her, and she swirled and swirled. Her green skirts adorned with tiny buds swung about her. They bloomed as she danced.
She plucked a foxglove bloom from its stem and dripped its wet dew onto her fingertip. She danced around Hans as she swiped a drop over each of his eyelids, inviting him to peer into her world. She placed a drop of dew at each of his ear canals, allowing him to hear the melodious sound the foxglove produced as she shook out her beautiful blooms.
They danced and twirled together as she braided together a necklace of foxglove. She kissed his cheek as she placed it around his neck. She collected the blooms she would need for her parents’ wedding as she danced among the foxglove and around her new companion. She packed them carefully into her knapsack, never missing a single step in her dance.
Vialait lured him down the path with her hypnotic dance moves. He followed eagerly, albeit clumsily, behind. She danced among the trees, a poetic game of here again, gone again. Hans was happy to play there you are over and over again.
They reached the edge of the shimmering, where the world began to vibrate with magic. She kissed his cheek, again.
She leaned up and whispered in his ear, “I have to go, now, but I promise I’ll come back and dance beside the fire with you.”
With a final wave goodbye, she turned and ran up the trodden path. She left Hans standing there staring after her wondering if she was real and if she’d truly be back. When she arrived at the doorway, she waved her hand as she had before.
The night flipped and stretched. It folded then unfolded and flipped again. It stretched, and her stomach lurched. It finally folded over and settled into Fereylind.
“Where have you been?” demanded her grandmother’s harsh voice from among the trees.
“None of your business.”
Pointedly turning her back on where she thought her grandmother hid, she headed for home.
“I didn’t say you could go,” Grandmother growled from behind her.
Vialait kept walking.
“What’s in the bag?”
Her grandmother grabbed for the knapsack. She snatched her hand back like she’d been bitten. When Vialait had plucked the blooms from their stems, she’d gotten drips of Foxglove juice on her hands. She’d wiped them down her skirt. When she’d plucked more, she’d decided to protect her precious cargo by applying the juice to the outside of the bag.
“Learned some tricks, did you?” she snarled rubbing her injured hand.
Vialait squared her shoulders and settled the straps more firmly upon them. Though she trembled inside, she was determined to conceal her fear.
“She’s been to the human realm, Queen Mother,” the ugly hag informed as she sidled up beside her grandmother. “She’s got the sweet scent of my sister’s house on her.”
“What were you doing in the human realm in the middle of the night?” her grandmother snarled. “Have yourself a human plaything out there? You’re just as disgusting as your father was at your age.”
Her grandmother was circling her, but it was nothing like the dance she’d danced around Hans. The hag stood nearby and watched with her beady little eyes and crooked beak of a nose. She was birdlike in her appearance.
“Just let me be.” The tremble in Vialait’s voice betrayed her.
“Or what?” her grandmother’s voice had developed a musical undernote to it. “You’ll tell your father?”
“You’d have to admit to him where you’ve been, and I’d bet he’d want to know why,” the hag cackled.
“And what would you tell him?” Grandmother was practically singing now. “Would you tell him about your human plaything? Would you tell him how you lured the boy to dance in the moonlight with you?”
Vialait gasped. How could her grandmother know that unless she’d been watching them? Had she or that ugly hag followed her?
She’d lay odds it was that ugly hag. She could turn into that wretched bird. That ugly, wretched bird had probably followed her while she’d been so sure of her secret plan that she’d not once thought to look behind her for a tail.
The moon was setting, and the sun would soon rise. If her parents were to wake, she’d have to confess to them anyways.
“And what would you tell him? That you had your little birdie follow me instead of waking him immediately? That you and your pet delayed my return home by detaining me here in the Fereylind Wood? Tell me, Grandmother.” She spun and faced the woman’s silver-eyed stare. “What exactly would you tell your King?”
Her grandmother sputtered. The old hag cackled. The sun was cresting. Vialait turned and continued on her way. The sun gleamed off the windows of the castle as she approached.
All was quiet inside when she pushed open the large front door and slipped inside. She was safely in her bedroom and waking Fernia when she heard her parents’ door open.
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